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5 Lifehacks for the Parent New to ABA Therapy, Part 1: Retrain Your Brain

ABA Therapy requires a different way of thinking

When working with children and adults with autism and varying disabilities it is important to retrain your brain. Inflection, body language, words, and other natural means of expression are often not deciphered or completely missed with autism. If one way doesn’t work, look for other tactics. Sometimes you must step outside the box. When we adapt and find what works for our children instead of a one size fits all mentality, we have already slayed one of our biggest dragons within ABA parent training. We are not all the same therefore no one should be required to think the same!

In parent training it is important to understand that we teach differently. ABA uses a real-world application, assessing and observing people’s interactions with their environments. This teaching breaks down tasks and demands into smaller more comprehensible steps; two of these strategies are discrete trial training (DTT), and Naturalistic Teaching. According to research a blend of these two strategies is most effective. In a nutshell DTT is a method of teaching that breaks down skills into smaller steps to help ensure understanding. Naturalistic teaching is used to promote generalization which means that once the skill is learned that skill is transferred out into the world and in natural settings. These strategies will be discussed further in depth at a later time.

Within the world of ABA we respond to behavior differently; we break it down into what we call the ABC’s. ‘A’ stands for antecedent which refers to what happened right before the behavior that may have caused the behavior to take place. When thinking about the A in ABC think of When, Where, Who, and What. The next part is the ‘B’, which stands for behavior. What does the behavior look like? When describing behavior, we want to use observable and measurable terms so that someone who may not know the child will be able to visualize the behavior as if they were present. Behavior Analysts use numerous methods of measuring behaviors which are defined in the Behavior Intervention Plan. The C stands for consequence; this means what happened after the behavior or as a result of the behavior. Example


Mom tells Amy it’s time to do her homework


Amy complains loudly and cries


Mom let's her have 5 more minutes of free time

ABC charts are used quite frequently throughout ABA to document and organize behaviors to help the ABA team understand the behavior and develop more efficient plans and interventions for these behaviors.

Throughout the world of ABA you will hear a lot about following through with demands and tasks. ABA teaches children and adults new skills constantly, as well as replacing undesirable behaviors. When using follow through, think of this example amongst many; You ask Johnny to put on his socks and Johnny starts to yell “No” or “I don’t want to”. With an example such as this we teach and expect follow through, meaning that we will stick to our verbal demand and have Johnny put his socks on. We might wait him out, help him with prompting, use modeling (i.e. you putting on your socks), etc. One of the most important parts of ABA is following through with your demands at all times whether it’s a verbal direction, new skill, or decreasing unwanted behavior. We may need to prompt and help when we make these requests/demands, but our goal is to fade these prompts and encourage independence.


Cooper, John O., Heron, Timothy E.Heward, William L.. (2007) Applied behavior analysis /Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson/Merrill-Prentice Hall,

Meadows, T. (1970, January 01). FREE ABA Resources!! Retrieved January 08, 2018, from

Bailey, J & Burch, M. (2011). Ethics for Behavior Analysts, Second Expanded Edition. New York, New York: Taylor & Francis Group.

Cosgrave, G. (n.d.). Positive Reinforcement. Retrieved January 08, 2018, from



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